Poetry News

Los Angeles's Machine Project to Close

By Harriet Staff
Machine Project logo

The artist-run space Machine Project, based in Los Angeles, is shutting its doors after 15 years, reports Artforum. If you've gone through LA as a poet, there's a chance you may have read here, or in the 18­-seat Victorian opera house in the basement, where Anthony McCann hosted the Mystery Theater Poetry readings, with guest curators Joseph Mosconi, Dolores Dorantes, and Machine Project Founder and Executive Director, Mark Allen, in 2015. More recently, Machine welcomed the Wave Books 5-day poetry marathon, in conjunction with AWP.

But Machine has been foremost a creative space, likely to present workshops on robotic art, welding, and Corsican folk singing; theatrical productions; and visual art exhibitions. A clearer definition of the Machine Project's largesse was written by Anna Mayer for X-TRA:

...Working out of the same storefront space for 15 years, Machine Project is a “feral institution,” presenting installations, theatrical productions, pedagogical workshops, tours of its oft re-configured interior, and a multiplicity/superabundance of other offerings. The storefront also serves as a headquarters for administering off-site projects, including large-scale programming realized at and with other venues. Los Angeles is home to several projects founded by artists desiring to produce extra-institutional spaces for criticality and innovation. Mark Bradford’s Art + Practice, Noah Davis’s The Underground Museum, and Sara Velas’s Velaslavasay Panorama come to mind as endeavors that thrive outside of established museums, galleries, and universities. While Art + Practice, for example, works within an urban neighborhood as part of an expanded field of art, Machine often works within more conventional art world parameters. Its innovation is in the practice of inserting itself (back) into established institutions. The museum-based projects allow Machine to concoct scenarios on a scale not allowed by its modest space. They also function as a trickle-up experience for the hosting institution—a training, of sorts, in how to facilitate artworks that are participatory, ephemeral, and/or durational. Most importantly, that training often involves publicly processing the experience after the fact, an exercise museums don’t typically undertake.

Artforum on the closing:

Allen, an associate professor at Pomona College, told Carolina A. Miranda of the Los Angeles Times that he thought of the space “as an exploratory and research project,” which “kind of emerges and shares knowledge and information and then dissolves so that the next thing can emerge.”

A champion of emerging artists, Machine Project was known for its eclectic programing that ranged from architectural tours of Los Angeles—led by artist Cliff Hengst, who channeled the ghost of Whitney Houston—to its creation of immersive environments—it once transformed its venue into a dense forest—to its score of experimental works including the performance Purple Electric Plat (PEP!), 2014, featuring a dancing salad and a giant tongue. The space will hold its last event, a wrap party where attendees will be able to purchase silkscreen fliers of its past exhibitions, on January 13.

We wish Allen and the next thing all the best!

Originally Published: January 5th, 2018